Photo by Bill Barrett/ISIphotos.com
Entering the final week of the MLS season, much is already sorted out, and that is reflected in the latest SBI MLS Power Rankings.
With nine teams already set for the playoffs, five teams eliminated from contention, and the other four jockeying for that final berth there wasn't much moving and shaking after the last round of results.
The only movement from the last rankings was done by Sporting Kansas City, which is up a spot to a season high No. 3 after beating the New York Red Bulls and moving into first place in the Eastern Conference with a game to go.
Here are this week's SBI MLS Power Rankings (as voted on by SBI staff):
SBI MLS POWER RANKINGS (WEEK 31)
1. (Last Week — 1) LOS ANGELES GALAXY (19-4-10, 67 points)
Last week: Beat Chivas USA, 1-0, on Sunday.
This week: at Houston, Sunday, 7 p.m., Galavision.
Outlook: After the club's mid-week CONCACAF Champions League match, the Galaxy can sit back, relax and play some reserves over the weekend. With the Supporters' Shield wrapped up and a focus on the postseason, this weekend is a chance for some of the younger, more inexperienced players on the Galaxy's roster to get some minutes.
2. (2) SEATTLE SOUNDERS (17-7-9, 60 points)
Last week: Beat San Jose, 2-1, on Saturday.
This week: at Chivas USA, 10:30 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: As far as farewell parties go, the one given to Kasey Keller was pretty stellar. Perhaps the most notable event to come out of the Sounders' win over the Earthquakes, though, was the return of Mauro Rosales, who was effective and notched an assist as he looks to get back into form heading into the postseason.
3. (4) SPORTING KANSAS CITY (12-9-12, 48 points)
Last week: Beat New York, 2-0, on Saturday.
This week: at D.C. United, 7:30 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: Kansas City is back in the postseason for the first time since 2008 following its win over the Red Bulls, and the club can cement a remarkable turnaround from a 1-6-3 start by winning the top seed in the Eastern Conference and securing home field through the conference playoffs.
4. (3) REAL SALT LAKE (15-11-7, 52 points)
Last week: Tied Colorado, 0-0, on Friday.
This week: vs. Portland, 9 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: RSL isn't exactly on a roll heading into the playoffs, but the club managed to snap its four-game losing streak and keep the Rocky Mountain Cup with its scoreless draw with the Rapids. As the season finale approaches, the club has to be wondering if it's better to finish third and face Seattle in the conference semifinals or drop to a wildcard spot and potentially go through the Eastern Conference to return to MLS Cup. As it stands, RSL is tied on points with FC Dallas but holds the tiebreaker.
5. (5) PHILADELPHIA UNION (11-7-15, 48 points)
Last week: Tied Toronto, 1-1, on Saturday.
This week: at New York, 8 p.m., Thursday, ESPN2.
Outlook: Philadelphia is going to the playoffs in just its second year of existence, which is a testament to the job done by Peter Nowak and his staff. Sebastien Le Toux's continued run of form is propelling the club to new heights, and it can make a tremendous statement by delivering a knockout blow to New York, a team that it defeated in a testy affair earlier this season.
6. (6) COLORADO RAPIDS (11-9-13, 46 points)
Last week: Tied Real Salt Lake, 0-0, on Friday.
This week: at Vancouver, 7 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: Colorado isn't wowing anybody these days, but the club is back in the postseason and will get the chance to defend its 2010 MLS Cup title. The Rapids also have a CCL knockout stage berth to fight for, as the club faces Santos Laguna in its final group match and is bringing its A Team in order to seek out a result.
7. (7) HOUSTON DYNAMO (11-9-13, 46 points)
Last week: Beat Portland, 2-0, on Saturday.
This week: vs. Los Angeles, 7 p.m., Sunday, Galavision.
Outlook: Houston is back in the playoffs after wrapping up an impressive road result at Portland, and the club will give Robertson Stadium a regular-season send-off when hosting the Galaxy. Houston can still manage to win the Eastern Conference's top seed with a win and if other results go their way, so there's much on the line for at least one team in that matchup.
T-8. (8) FC DALLAS (15-11-7, 52 points)
Last week: Beat Chicago, 2-1, on Wednesday; Beat Vancouver, 2-0, on Saturday.
This week: at San Jose, 10:30 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: FC Dallas secured two important victories last week to snap a period of futility and gain some momentum heading into the playoffs. Riding Brek Shea, Marvin Chavez and Jackson, FCD regained some of the attacking prowess that it showed earlier in the season and doesn't appear to be an easy out for whomever it meets in the postseason after all.
T-8. (9) COLUMBUS CREW (13-12-8, 47 points)
Last week: Beat New England, 3-0, on Saturday.
This week: at Chicago, 8:30 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: Like Houston, Columbus is still in the mix for the top seed in the East but will have to fend off a pesky Chicago side while getting help to wrap that up. Nevertheless, not many had Columbus reaching the playoffs when the season started in light of offseason personnel moves, so the fact that the Crew are back in the postseason is a massive success and one of the stories of the season.
10. (10) NEW YORK RED BULLS (9-8-16, 43 points)
Last week: Lost to Sporting Kansas City, 2-0, on Saturday.
This week: vs. Philadelphia, 8 p.m., Thursday, ESPN2.
Outlook: Thierry Henry's poor judgment cost the Red Bulls a chance to lock things up over the weekend, and now the club faces a do-or-die situation against the Union without their captain and leading scorer. It'll be up to Juan Agudelo to answer the call in Henry's place, and it'll be up to the capable-but-fatally-flawed Red Bulls to put it all together for one game to reach the playoffs.
11. (11) PORTLAND TIMBERS (11-14-7, 40 points)
Last week: Lost to Houston, 2-0, on Saturday.
This week: at D.C. United, 8 p.m., Wednesday; at Real Salt Lake, 9 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: The road to the postseason for the expansion Timbers is a whole lot more difficult after the loss to the Dynamo. Portland needs to come away with two road victories (which would double its season total) while hoping that the Red Bulls don't beat Philadelphia. It would appear that a valiant first season in MLS will end a bit short of the postseason.
12. (12) CHICAGO FIRE (8-9-16, 40 points)
Last week: Lost to FC Dallas, 2-1, on Wednesday; Beat D.C. United, 2-1, on Saturday.
This week: vs. Columbus, 8:30 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: The Fire just won't go away. Left for dead months ago, Chicago clawed its way back into the postseason picture. Left for dead after falling behind on a 90th-minute penalty kick in D.C., Chicago managed to find two stoppage time goals to steal a result and keep hope alive until the final game of the season. Even with that Chicago needs to beat Columbus and have other results go their way along with having the tiebreaker scenarios unfold in their favor as well, but the last couple months have taught us not to count the fire out.
13. (13) D.C. UNITED (9-12-11, 38 points)
Last week: Lost to Vancouver, 2-1, on Wednesday; Lost to Chicago, 2-1, on Saturday.
This week: vs. Portland, 8 p.m., Wednesday; vs. Sporting Kansas City. 7:30 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: United just won't make life easy for themselves. D.C. appeared to be in a great spot after Dwayne De Rosario's 90th-minute penalty kick looked to seal a crucial three points over the weekend, but the horrifying collapse that allowed Chicago to steal the victory has left D.C. with no margin for error. It's two wins and pray for some help or bust.
14. (14) CHIVAS USA (8-13-12, 36 points)
Last week: Lost to Los Angeles, 1-0, on Sunday.
This week: vs. Seattle, 10:30 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: Chivas is going out with a whimper after lingering in the postseason picture for the final few weeks of the season, and the weekend's showing in the SuperClasico is a final stamp of disappointment on how the season wound down. After his performance over the last few weeks, will Juan Pablo Angel be brought back by the Goats? That's one major question that the team faces moving into the offseason.
15. (15) SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES (7-12-14, 35 points)
Last week: Lost to Seattle, 2-1, on Saturday.
This week: vs. FC Dallas, 10:30 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: The Earthquakes hardly stood a chance at what amounted to a Keller Testimonial, but credit Chris Wondolowski for maintaining his push for an unprecedented consecutive Golden Boot. That alone is reason to keep an eye on the Earthquakes' bout with FC Dallas over the weekend, as the improbable candidate tries to do something no player has done in league history.
16. (16) TORONTO FC (6-13-14, 32 points)
Last week: Tied Philadelphia, 1-1, on Saturday.
This week: vs. New England, 12:30 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: TFC has shown vast improvement in the aftermath of all of its wheelings and dealings, and an improvement in defense would poise the club for a potential breakout season in 2012. While the season finale against the Revolution is pretty much meaningless, the club still has a shot at reaching the CCL knockout stage.
17. (17) NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION (5-16-12, 27 points)
Last week: Lost to Columbus, 3-0, on Saturday.
This week: at Toronto FC, 12:30 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: The blowout loss to Columbus was pretty symbolic of the season as a whole for the Revs, who are in prime position to seal the No. 2 pick in the 2012 SuperDraft (behind expansion Montreal). But by the time they need to make that pick, will Steve Nicol and Shalrie Joseph still be around?
18. (18) VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (6-17-10, 28 points)
Last week: Beat D.C., 2-1, on Wednesday; Lost to FC Dallas, 2-0, on Saturday.
This week: vs. Colorado, 7 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: The Whitecaps' inaugural season didn't go how team personnel would've hoped, but the club is still putting forth the effort before the final curtain falls. Home wins over Real Salt Lake and D.C. United put the team's potential on display, and with some talented pieces in place, the Whitecaps are poised for a big improvement in 2012.